During this time of national mourning at the passing of President George H.W. Bush, many have called this the end of an era; an era of decency, of country first, of selfless service to our fellow man. It is true that the 41st President, who came of age abruptly at the start of World War II and ended his long period of public service overseeing the fall of the Berlin Wall will be remembered for his humble kindness, his understated strength, and the “kinder, gentler nation” he set out to establish. But this is not the end of an era, as the pundits and television philosophers would have us believe.
Just as President Bush firmly believed the man elected President was the custodian of the Office, we the people are the custodians of this nation and I think we forget how much power we hold. As Lincoln said in his speech at Gettysburg, “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” So we elect leaders-in this case a President-for the moment: to fight, to lead, to make peace, to unite. But it is also our duty to hold them, and each other, to a standard of decency and virtue, and the man should never outshine the office of which “we the people” established.
Analysts have made countless comparisons of the elder Bush to President Trump regarding decorum, trying to juxtapose adjectives to demean the current president’s unrefined style. But I find it interesting that people who see everything through the prism of Trump never take a moment for self-reflection about the impact their words make on public perception. The same can be said for some members of Congress, for the so-called experts on television and newspapers, for late-night comedians who confuse condescending lectures for jokes. So we must not let a small class of people define decency as meekness under threat of losing our traditional values, but to be steadfast in the fight for self-government, self-determination, and open, civil discourse about the path forward for a still-great nation and not succumb to tantrums of identity politics, race-baiting, and hypersensitive P.C. culture.
Watching the memorial service, I was struck by the image of the flag-draped casket of the president held firmly and marched down the Cathedral aisle by eight stout servicemen and followed by generals of each branch of the military. As a veteran, the ceremony it held a special solemnity to it. As an onlooker, it was clear how much service to our nation meant to President Bush. As a young man, he fought for that flag and what it represents. He honored it through public service in the CIA, as a congressman, a Vice President, and a President. Just as this one man modeled a lifetime of service for country, so too do we have the responsibility to honor the sacrifice of all who make the journey to their final resting place under a flag-draped casket, or the field of a foreign land watched over by the American flag. It is our solemn duty to engage the gears of discourse to promote permanent and enduring moral truths, prudence, and a society free of the yoke of an increasingly-restricting government. It would be more than a wasted opportunity to step aside and set this great nation adrift, or worse let it be commandeered by despotic forces.
So, is this an end of an era? No. President Reagan, who was honored at his State Funeral at the National Cathedral in 2004, said in a famous 1964 speech, “Now we have come to a time for choosing.” We can choose to grow the prominence of civil discourse by encouraging new voices in support of traditional values, self-reliance, and first principles-such as here on Ricochet. We engage with our community leaders and school boards and support and vote for public officeholders who commit to small government and encourage an open marketplace of ideas instead of a death sentence of a society of victims. We may be losing The Greatest Generation of which the majority experienced the sacrifices of war, but today we have selfless men and women who voluntarily trade their well-being in the name of duty, honor, and country. We can honor them, and the office of which George H.W. Bush was a faithful custodian, by passing on the torch of freedom.
President George H.W. Bush oversaw the closing chapter of the Cold War along with the closing chapter of a certain order of American politics, but his passing is not the closing of the American chapter. We mustn’t mourn an end of an Era, because it isn’t one. This is a time to reflect on our history: the transgressions and the righteousness, the victories and the defeats. We can use it as a springboard to begin a new chapter, sparked by the flame of the past that may never be extinguished as long as it shines as a beacon for liberty the world over; that the oppressed know freedom’s flame has a home here. We are blessed living in this great experiment: man can accept the responsibility for self-government and be the master of his own destiny. The era of honor, duty, decency, and service continues for now. Our nation depends on it. As Reagan said in that same speech, “You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We can preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we can sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children’s children say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done.”
Let us now make certain we do all that we can do, and let a new chapter begin.Published in